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Sunday, 28 May 2017

Puritans

The term Puritan was principally applied from the 1560s to those progressive Protestants who wished to purify the Church of England in accordance with scripture from what they regarded as superstitious and corrupt rituals retained after its separation from Rome.

In later years the term came to be applied to Protestant Christians who were of a particular austere or strict persuasion. The name was generally applied with scorn, implying a "holier than thou" attitude on the part of those who were so called thus.

Puritan elder confronts ale drinkers

Strict Puritan laws had their origins from practical reasons. Smoking was banned - farmers would raise badly needed food crops instead of tobacco. Cooking was banned on Sundays - to prevent house fires during the long hours the family was at church.

Anglican treatises on the family listed procreation as the primary purpose of marriage, followed by restraint and remedy of sin, and finally companionship. The Puritans reversed the order, putting mutual society, help, and comfort in first place.

Daniel Rogers wrote, "Husbands and wives should be as two sweet friends, bred under one constellation, tempered by an influence from heaven whereof neither can give any reason, save mercy and providence first made them so, and then made their match; saying, see, God hath determined us out of this vast world for each other." In direct contrast to the medieval Catholic glorification of celibacy, the Puritans placed a very high value on marriage, sex, and family—as long as they occurred in that order!

William Dobson, Portrait of a Family, Probably that of Richard Streatfeild 

Puritans associated art in churches with Catholicism, but they bought art for their homes.

They objected to theaters, which had become centers of prostitution and dissipation in their day, but the Puritans did not necessarily object to dramatic art—the puritan poet John Milton wrote a masque, Comus, for private performance.

The Puritans extolled plainness in women and denounce adornments such as make-up and elaborate dress as evil. In Puritan England the church denounced lip painting as altering God's most precious gift.

The Plymouth Colony Puritans of New England disapproved of Christmas celebrations, as did some other Protestant churches of the time. The celebrating of Christmas was outlawed in Boston from 1659 until 1681, but it was not until the mid-19th century that celebrating Christ's birth became fashionable in the Boston region.

Public notice in Boston deeming Christmas illegal

The Puritans took Sabbath observance very seriously. When King James I threw down the gauntlet by publishing the Book of Sports—a list of the sports and games one could lawfully engage in after church—the controversy that followed was so volatile that a 17th-century historian cited it as one of the leading causes of the English Civil War.

The Puritans did value recreation—just not on Sunday. On other days of the week, they enjoyed a form of football, archery, bowling, fishing, hunting, skating, swimming, and any other amusement they did not deem immoral (such as gambling or horse racing). In fact, some Puritan leaders urged employers to give their workers time for play and exercise during the week, so that Sunday could truly be a day of rest for both spirit and body.

Sources Interesting and unusual facts about the English Puritans. Compiled by Jennifer Trafton and Leland Ryken Christian History Issue 89 in 2006 , BBC History Magazine 

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